Interrogating the evidence base on humanitarian localisation: a literature study

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Understanding the impact of ‘localisation’ on strengthening effective and efficient responses to humanitarian crises continues to be a key policy and practice concern for donors and the broader sector.

The 2016 World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) catalysed a range of commitments to strengthen local humanitarian action, most notably those made via the Grand Bargain. Criticisms of a ‘broken’ humanitarian system dominated by international actors led to commitments intended to bring transformational change. These included promises to address inequalities in the system, such as the inequitable recognition given to local actors despite their frontline role in humanitarian responses.

This report presents the findings of a review of the localisation literature commissioned by the evaluation department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands. It responds to the question: ‘What added value does localisation bring in the pursuit of Dutch policy objectives and what are effective ways for the Netherlands as a donor and diplomatic actor to promote localisation?’

As such, the literature review required a focus on the more technical assessment of the impact of localisation, while at the same time providing a critical assessment of this focus. The drive towards more locally led responses has become known as ‘localisation’, a term which has been criticised and rejected by many. By necessity this report uses the language of ‘localisation’ as shorthand, while recognising that this terminology is problematic and can have negative consequences.


  • Publication language: English
  • Pages: 86pp
  • Suggested citation: Barbelet, V., Davies, G., Flint, J. and Davey, E. (2021) Interrogating the evidence base on humanitarian localisation: a literature study. HPG literature review. London: ODI